Is it even possible at this point to talk about just Jack White? We have to talk about his influences (Led Zeppelin mixed with garage rock) and his numerous side projects (sane: The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather; insane: um, Insane Clown Posse?). And no one can write a word about Jack White without talking about Meg, his sister/wife/ex-wife/ex-bandmate, and his future-classic band The White Stripes. It’s safe to say The White Stripes will go down as one of the best rock bands of the 2000s, but they’re done for and long gone, and now it’s just plain Jack White. Sadness was the natural emotion when the new of their breakup came out, but Blunderbuss, White’s new solo album, is doing a great job of wiping my tears away and lifting my chin up.
Blunderbuss is an awesome rock album, the culmination of all his influences and previous projects into one complete opus all his own. The similarities to the Stripes are inevitable (they were always Jack’s band anyway) and you can certainly hear Meg’s effect, especially in the lyrics, along with echoes of his second wife, Karen Elson. But this is an album firing on all of its very own cylinders, so focused is White’s vision. These songs are affecting, creepy at times, violent at others, and strangely life-affirming in some places, sometimes all at once (see: “Love Interruption”). Considering the album is named after a firearm, the violence isn’t surprising. “Freedom at 21” opens with “Cut off the bottoms of my feet / Make me walk on salt” and the best song on the album (among many great songs), “Love Interruption”, asks love to “roll me over slowly / Stick a knife inside me / And twist it all around”. It’s not all knives and guns though; songs like “On and On and On” and “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” show some introspection and swagger, respectively.
I’m worried the question that will follow Blunderbuss to the end of the year is whether or not it’s better than any White Stripes albums, but who cares? I love the Stripes albums I’ve heard (Elephant, Icky Thump) and now I love Blunderbuss. That’s good enough for me. I’ll leave the comparisons to the pointless arguments that friendships thrive on when you have similar tastes. As far as this album goes on its own merits, it’s one of the best of this year so far, and it’ll probably end up being one of the best of the year come December. The creativity from one song to the next will not likely be matched and certainly hasn’t yet.